» petitions ¦ What You Can Get Away With

One of the small highlights of the recent World Cup for me was the BBC showing the official FIFA World Cup films on BBC Two on weekend mornings. In the 1982 film – G’Ole! – there’s a moment near the end when the camera pans over the crowd for the final and shows a Colombia 1986 banner, the only time that tournament ever appeared on camera.

Colombia had been selected to host the 1986 World Cup but withdrew from hosting later in 1982 because of a host of domestic and economic problems. In the words of President Betancur: “We have a lot of things to do here and there is not enough time to attend to the extravagances of Fifa and its members.” Colombia 1986 is the only time a country has not hosted the World Cup after being awarded it.

Luckily for FIFA, there do still remain several countries willing to attend to their extravagances, and indeed will compete to provide more and more extravagances in order to get to host the World Cup. That’s why there was heated bidding for the rights to stage the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, and why some have cried foul after they were awarded to Russia and Qatar. Since they were awarded, there’s been constant criticism of the Qatar 2022 decision, and recent events in Ukraine have also made people question whether it’s right to host the 2018 tournament in Russia and Nick Clegg has called for it to be taken away from them.

Unlike the complaints about Qatar, the arguments given for having the 2018 World Cup are almost entirely political, based on the recent actions of the Russian Government, though they tend to ignore that world sporting bodies are generally autocratic institutions themselves and don’t really respond to that sort of argument. Despite the fact it opens up a lot of other questions – should British clubs refuse to play in Russia in UEFA tournaments? If FIFA don’t change their minds, should the home nations boycott 2018? – it’s a legitimate thing to propose.

However, if you want to scupper your entire campaign very quickly, what you shouldn’t do is this:

Talking about the situation in Ukraine, Nick Clegg raised the question on whether Russia should host the World Cup in 2018:

“He (Putin) can’t constantly push the patience of the international community beyond breaking point and still have the privilege and honour of receiving all the accolades in 2018 for being the host nation of the World Cup.”

In light of Russia’s actions, one option could be to bring the World Cup to England instead.

If you agree, sign this petition.

We the undersigned call on England to host the 2018 World Cup instead of Russia.

That’s currently on the Lib Dem website, and suddenly turns it from legitimate concerns about Russia to one of the countries beaten by Russia in the 2018 bidding trying to get revenge. It weakens the case against Russia hosting it by associating it with England getting the tournament instead and thus makes it into a contest of two countries, not weighing up the merits of one.

The reason I brought up Colombia 1986 at the start of this post was because when the decision was made to not have the World Cup there, it wasn’t because another country had stepped forward and said ‘we’ll do it instead’. The decision to not host the tournament and the decision of the location of the replacement were separate, and if FIFA were to decide to take it from Russia, there’d surely be an open process (well, open by FIFA standards) to decide the replacement, as happened for 1986 (with Mexico selected over the USA and Canada). One could also look at the ongoing dispute over Qatar 2022, where the USA (probably the most likely location for it if it doesn’t happen in Qatar) are being very careful not to put themselves forward as the alternative, but instead are keeping the debate about whether it should be in Qatar at all.

(I’d also question if England was able to host the tournament on such short notice, given the suggested new stadiums and expansions proposed in the original bid. If Russia were to lose it, and it was to stay within Europe, the most logical new host would likely be France, given the work they’re currently doing for Euro 2016.)

This might just be an overenthusiastic staffer at Great George Street getting carried away and starting off a petition without thinking about it, but it’s a huge own goal. If you want to make the case against Russia, you should do that, and not confuse the issue by trying to fly an England flag at the same time.

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Petition watch

A couple of petitions to the Government that people who read this might be interested in signing:

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Nov 15th elections : My vote was a “No” vote – I plugged this a lot during the week on social media, and it’s a very good way of making clear that people object to the concept of police commissioners, and the low turnout last week wasn’t just apathy.
Add legally binding ‘Reopen nominations (RON)’ & ‘Leave position vacant’ options to all ballot papers – It would be an interesting addition to voting, and give people who don’t like any of the candidates an option to choose beyond spoiling or abstaining. Personally, I’d go for None Of The Above, rather than Re-Open Nominations. From personal experience running elections at Essex SU, many people didn’t understand ‘re=open nominations’, but ‘none of the above’ makes a lot more sense to people.

And an old petition that you can still sign and I think deserves support: put Alan Turing on the £10 note.

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Time was when you knew exactly what the parties’ positions on secret courts would be – Labour would look to expand it as far as possible while rebranding them as ‘community courts’, the Tories would insist that private companies could manage secrecy better than the Government ever could and Liberal Democrats would be against it.

As the vote at Conference a couple of weeks ago showed, the vast majority of Liberal Democrats remain opposed to any proposals for secret courts, but there are some within Parliament who’ve let themselves go native and listen to the securocratss demands for more power.

To continue the campaign against secret courts on from Conference, a petition has been organised to keep up the pressure on Parliamentarians to vote down the relevant sections of the Justice and Security Bill.

In line with the clear and overwhelming decision of conference, we the undersigned members of the Liberal Democrats reaffirm our opposition to secret courts and our commitment to the rule of law, open justice, the holding of government to account, the right to a fair trial and the protection of civil liberties. We therefore call upon our ministers and parliamentarians to:

  • withdraw or vote down Part II of the Justice and Security Bill and
  • put the current “Public Interest Immunity Certificate” scheme on a statutory footing.
  • You can sign the petition here.

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